Explore the Japan National Stadium, Home of the Fervor and Energy of the Tokyo 2020 Games

日本語で読む
The Japan National Stadium was witness to many a close match and heated battles during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 (hereafter, "Tokyo 2020 Games"). And with the stadium now officially slated to host the upcoming 2025 World Athletics Championships, it is quickly becoming a new Tokyo landmark.
The Japan National Stadium was used as the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Games. Its design was based on wood, so that it would blend into and harmonize with the natural environment surrounding it.

Become an "Athlete" on the Tokyo 2020 Track and Field

Since April 1, 2022, visitors have been able to explore designated areas of the stadium through the Japan National Stadium tour. The stadium currently hosts sporting events such as athletics tournaments and soccer matches. The tour, however, lets the general public explore areas of the stadium that they normally would not be able to access.

Tour participants enter through Gate E on the Gaien Gate (South Gate) side of the stadium. The first stop is the running track and grass field where the athletics events for the Tokyo 2020 Games took place. Here, participants can walk (or run!) on the same track the athletes actually ran on during their events, and see for themselves how, when thier foot hits the ground, the pushback from the track has a sort of spring-like effect. This helps propel athletes forward, letting them go a bit faster than they might otherwise be able to.

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In fact, top athletes praised the track—made by the Italian manufacturer MONDO—for exactly that reason. The grass field, however, is off-limits.

The track retains some of the feel of the Tokyo 2020 Games, perhaps because of the Olympic and Paralympic symbols still emblazoned on it. There are also photo spots set up with starting blocks and hurdles, where participants can pose as athletes and take commemorative photos.

Another corner of this area offers a "victory shot" experience. Have you ever seen a winning athlete sign their name on the camera after a game? In much the same way, participants get the chance to run for a few meters up to the camera, sign their name on the camera lens, then pose for a victory photo. Participants can then download the video using a 2D barcode, and keep it to commemorate the tour.

Explore Otherwise Un-Explorable Areas

Next up is the flash interview zone, followed by a tour of an athletes' locker room. The flash interview zone is where athletes and their coaches are interviewed after their matches. This zone in the Japan National Stadium is known for its lights, which were designed by architect Kengo Kuma to resemble andon (lamps made with paper shades that are lit by lighting a fire in an oil pan inside). The zone itself is sometimes even called ANDON  Hall. This is also the area where athletes wait before entering the stadium, and is connected directly to the athletes' locker rooms.

The tour also features exhibits of the Olympic/Paralympic torch, made partly of recycled aluminum scraps from the temporary houses built after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the Tokyo 2020 Games winners' podium, made with recycled plastic.

Next up after the flash interview zone is Ring Road—a road for vehicles that goes all around the field—and a parking lot for the athletes' team buses.  At the Signature Wall, located in a corner of Ring Road, participants will find signatures and messages from the athletics contestants who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

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The winners' podium exhibited in the flash interview zone was actually used at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Participants can stand on the podium and take photos. On the wall are panels of photos from the Games.
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The aluminum relay torch was designed to look like a cherry blossom flower. At 71 centimeters long, it weighs 1.2 kilograms.
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The athletes' locker room, which is made primarily from wood. The room was built in an oblong shape that is said to boost the sense of unity and cohesion amongst teams in team sports.
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The Signature Wall boasts approximately 300 signatures left by athletes after they completed their events.

At the end of the tour is the observation deck on the fourth floor of the stadium. Here, participants can look out over the earth-toned bleachers--designed in a color gradation that consists of darker shades in the lower rings and paler shades in the upper rings--as well as the track and field. They can also get a closer look at the roof of the stadium, which is made from a hybrid structure that merges Japanese wood with a steel frame. The glass portions at the edges of the roof are fitted with transparent solar panels.

A Tour Designed with Comfort in Mind

The Japan National Stadium Tour is held on designated dates outside of any tournaments or events that take place in the stadium. Participants are generally expected to purchase tickets online, with on-the-day tickets only available at the counter if there is still space available.

While the tour is not staffed with tour guides or commentators, information panels are set up in Japanese and English at each of the stops along the way. Participants can also access Japanese and English audio commentary by using their smartphone to read the 2D barcode on the information panels. They can thus explore the various stops on the tour at their own pace.

The photo spots along the tour are equipped with smartphone stands. These stands allow participants to get the best angles for their photos without needing to ask others for help, thus allowing them to avoid unnecessary contact with staff or other tour participants. The tour is designed to be as comfortable as possible for as many kinds of people as possible.

While the Japan National Stadium is, absolutely, a magnificent sports stadium, it can also be appreciated for its eco-friendly architecture, and the harmony it exudes with the surrounding natural environment. With the Stadium Tour, the general public will be able to take a rare peek into the Tokyo 2020 Games and perhaps feel for themselves the energy and fervor of that moment in sports history.

Interview and writing by Imaizumi Aiko
Photos courtesy of JAPAN SPORT COUNCIL
Translation by Amitt